The easiest and most useful cake I know

easiest cake

I don’t like to follow too many rules but with baking you have to. That’s why I love this cake, because it breaks quite a few of the rules that we’re meant to follow and also gives you the freedom to play around with flavours. It truly is the easiest cake recipe I know.

It takes less than 10 minutes to measure and mix and cooks in about 25 minutes so it is perfect for those days when the need for cake or a dessert comes unannounced.

Here are some of the different types of cakes and puddings I make using this recipe:

  • Cupcakes or fairy cakes (divide between paper cases and cook for 10-15 minutes)
  • As the base for a children’s birthday cake
  • As a Victoria Sponge – filled with jam or lemon curd and cream or buttercream
  • With fresh fruit – figs, berries or peaches baked into it
  • As a jam or syrup sponge pudding – just put a few spoonfuls of jam or golden syrup in the bottom of the pan before you put the cake mixture in. Perfect after Sunday lunch with custard or ice cream.

The idea for this cake came from a Nigella Lawson recipe but I’ve tinkered with it. I’m sure she’d approve. I credit her with making me brave enough to use my food processor to make this. If you don’t have a food processor, I’d really recommend getting one (here are the ones I recommend) as I use mine almost every day to make sauces, slaw, pesto, breadcrumbs and dips. If you’re still not convinced or can’t wait to get one, you can use the ingredients below for a traditional sponge method which I’ve described below.

A word on grams vs. cups

If you reading in America and are more used to cup measurements when baking, I’m unapologetic in recommending using a digital scale and grams for this recipe. Weighing in grams is more precise and gives more consistent results – especially for lighter cakes like this. It also means you only use one bowl to weigh everything and don’t need to dirty lots of different cups. You can find the scales I recommend here.

Ingredients makes 2 x shallow 20cm/8 inch cakes – you can easily cut these ingredients in half to make one but I always make one to eat and one for the cake tin/freezer.
  • 225g salted butter, very soft but not melted (microwave for a few seconds if need be)
  • 200g unbleached golden caster sugar (superfine in the US)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large free-range eggs at room temperature (pop them in a bowl of warm water for a minute if they’re cold)
  • 200g self-raising flour (or use 185g all purpose/plain flour mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 25g cornflour (cornstarch in the US)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Plus your choice of fruit – in the photo above I used 2 fresh figs, quartered.To make

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan) / 350°F (325°F convection).

2. Use the butter wrapper to grease two shallow 20cm/8 inch cake tins or pie dishes. If you want to turn the cake out use a loose-bottom cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of parchment. If you are serving this as a dessert straight from the pan, you can use any metal or glass dish – there is no need to line it.

3. Mix the cake batter:

a. In a food processor:

Put all the ingredients except for the milk into a food processor, using the standard blade that sits at the base of the bowl. Pulse until you have a smooth batter, you may need to scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula half way through to make sure everything is incorporated. Then add the milk through the funnel before pulsing together again.b. Traditional method:

Use an electric beater to mix the sugar, vanilla and butter together until pale and fluffy. Then add the eggs one by one, adding in a tablespoon of the flour and mixing before adding the next egg. Fold in the rest of the flour along with the salt and baking powder until combined before folding in the milk.

4. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and gently spread to the edges before gently placing the fruit on top. Press the fruit in slightly.

5. Put the cakes onto the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and if the cake springs back when you touch the middle it will be fine. You can pop a skewer in the middle too but it is unlikely it will be underdone.

6. Leave to cool slightly before dusting with icing (powdered) sugar and cutting into wedges to serve. Any leftover cake should be kept in an airtight tin for a couple of days or can be wrapped in foil and frozen when cool.

Equipment

You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

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